It was no surprise that most questions MS Dhoni fielded ahead of India’s first Test of the England series were directed at the bowling attack. He was probed whether India will go in with five bowlers or will consider playing two spinners. And the matter of a seam all-rounder came up as usual.
The Indian captain explained the permutations and combination in detail without giving away much about the attack he is going to field at Trent Bridge.
This time, however, India do have a seam bowling all-rounder in their ranks in Stuart Binny. Dhoni said if groomed and prepared properly, he can become India’s answer in overseas Tests in the long run.
“Stuart is someone who can swing the ball and can also bat well. We need somebody who can bowl those 10 overs and bat a bit. He may not be as good as a Jacques Kallis but if we give him the chances and groom him, in the coming six to eight months he will be doing that job for us. He has the talent and the potential,” the Indian captain said.
When asked if they will contemplate going in with a two-pronged spin attack, Dhoni said it was almost out of question in the English conditions.
“The first thing teams make sure when we tour overseas is that the wicket doesn’t offer any turn, at least on the first three days of the Test. So, I don’t think we even have to think on the lines of playing two spinners,” Dhoni said. “Out of the five Tests here, we may get one wicket where we can play two spinners but they will try their best to take the spinners out of equation by ensuring the ball doesn’t turn. So, we’re not confused about our playing XI as of now.”
However, Dhoni stressed that the importance of spinners cannot be underplayed in Test cricket, as they often can change the game in the final sessions of a Test. He said in is during these phases that England will miss someone like Graeme Swann.
“It will be crucial to take the game into the fourth and fifth day when the bowlers’ footmarks get slightly bigger and can be exploited by the spinners even if there is not turn in the wicket. That’s the time when a team needs a genuine spinner. So, spinners will always remain a crucial part of Test cricket.”
As for his young pace attack, the Indian skipper seemed pleased with the way they have utilized the 15 days they have been here, in strengthening their fitness, skills and adapting to the conditions.
“We’ve done a lot of work in the last few days in terms of the fast bowlers’ fitness and now we are in a period where we are easing down their workload,” Dhoni said. “From how things have gone in the practice sessions so far, they have been bowling the right lengths and making the batsmen play, which is very crucial in these conditions.
“If we don’t have injuries like we did in the last series here, we are moving in the right direction. Ishant has been bowling well in the nets and he will be important because he gets a little more bounce than the rest of our bowlers.”
Shifting the focus from bowling, Dhoni spoke of the impact that Rahul Dravid’s presence has had on the squad in the last few days.
“We wanted a mentor in the side who could talk about his own past experiences in England,” Dhoni said of the former captain. “It wasn’t about making technical changes because it is very difficult to change yourself in 10 days, but more about him interacting with the youngsters about the conditions here and how to adapt to them.
“The good thing is these young boys are quite comfortable talking to him. We noticed that in South Africa when he was part of the commentary team. If he was hanging around, the boys would go up to him, have a chat with him about cricket and other things,” the skipper said.
Stressing on what he mentioned before leaving for England, Dhoni said he will look to play the role of an attacking batsman at No. 6.
“It will be one of the crucial things here for us because that is the position from where you can change the game if you get a few boundaries and bat positively. That is generally also a phase where the ball is a bit older and the bowlers are tired, although it also depends on the start that you’ve had.”